St. Joseph Day Altars, often referred to as ‘Tables’ in Catholic churches in the U.S., date back to medieval times in Sicily. The legend, told by Italian-Americans, is that a drought in the 1600’s created a great famine. Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph for rain and promised that if he answered their prayers, they would dedicate a feast day in his name every year to feed the hungry. St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers, answered their prayers. The rain came and crops began to rise again. The tradition, carried on for generations, is often the result of a promise made to St. Joseph to answer a prayer in exchange for a devotion. Altars in the U.S. were initially held in people’s homes, but were later moved to local parishes to accommodate more people. Every parish adds its own touch, but there are a few staples that make a true St. Joseph table: a St. Joseph statue, fruits and vegetables, and fava beans — the only crop that was able to grow during the famine. Bread is also a must, a symbol of the wheat that grew once the famine ended. The bread is often braided into intricate sculptures like crosses and other symbolic shapes.
In St. Marys the Altar was started in 1989. It was held in what used to be called the Hospitality Room in the former Library Building, which now houses the high school boys' classrooms. Tables were set up, decorated with flowers, candles, a large statue of St. Joseph in the center, plants and other greenery. A variety of baked goods were displayed on the tables along with other food donations. These included decorated cakes, breads, rolls, pies, cookies, and many other beautifully decorated baked goods. This has grown to include a variety of ‘specialty baskets’, religious goods, seafood platters, many gift packages, and other items. Another feature of this event is the Holy Family table. This is a dining table that is set up with beautiful dinnerware, candles, a floral centerpiece and other special items to represent the honored place for the Holy Family to dine.
The proceeds from the St. Joseph’s Table have varied throughout the years. In the past few years the main intentions have been: Masses for Priests throughout the world, to support Religious vocations from our parish, and to feed the poor -therefore, free breakfast for the whole parish, and all unsold items are distributed to the poor. Anyone can contribute to the St. Joseph Day Table by donating baked goods; breads, cakes, cookies, candies, pies, pastries, etc; donating specialty baskets i.e. ‘Fruit Baskets’ ‘Mexican Night baskets’, ‘Game Night Baskets’, ‘Spaghetti Dinner Baskets’, ‘Mom’s Night Out Baskets’, ‘Craft Making Baskets’, ‘Children’s Easter Baskets’ etc., or any other creative basket with a special theme; donating new or like-new beautiful religious goods (pictures, statues, etc.), or monetary donations.
The St. Joseph Table is not only a means to thank and honor St. Joseph for all his many blessings -both personal and collective - throughout the year, but it also helps bring the parish together in a festive environment to relax and visit with one another. Sometimes our lives are so busy and intense, that the Table helps give a much needed break and a re-connecting time as a Parish Family. As Josef Pieper said “Repose, Leisure, Peace, belong among the elements of Happiness!” So many people are involved in making this a beautiful event, from the organizers, the volunteers, the many, many bakers, and all the others who help with either their money or their time, it just can’t help but bring the parish together. Also, the money used for ‘priestly vocations’, and for ‘Masses for Priests’ is incalculable. Our priests are under attack on all sides, and with the battle raging ever more fiercely, the masses said for their apostolate is immeasurable. After all, what are we without our Priests? They bring us the Mass! They are Christ to us, and our link to eternity. “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” - Padre Pio
St. Joseph, Pray for us!